SolaRoad is a pioneering innovation in the field of energy harvesting. The power-generating pavers are created by embedding crystalline silicon solar cells in concrete slabs, before covering them in a one centimetre layer of tempered glass. Then, a non-adhesive finish and a slight tilt are added to help the rain wash off dirt and thus keep the surface clean, guaranteeing maximum exposure to sunlight.
The Dutch Research Institute TNO estimates that up to 20 percent of the Netherlands’ 140,000km of road could potentially be adapted into SolaRoads, which would amount to an additional 400 to 500 km sq of energy-generating PV which could be fed into the grid, or used to power signage and traffic lights.
Dr Sten de Wit from SolaRoad, the consortium behind the project, envisages that solar roads could eventually be used to power the electric vehicles that use them.
"Electric vehicles are on the rise, but are not really a substitute until the electricity they use is generated in a sustainable way. Roads can generate power right where it is needed."
SolaRoad is scheduled to run for three years and will cost $4.3 million. De Sten de Wit said despite the high costs of developing the first SolaRoad, successor projects may be more profitable as solar cells grow cheaper and more efficient.